© Reuters. A sign showing support for a Starbucks Union is seen at the Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, offices in Buffalo, New York, U.S., February 23, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
By Hilary Russ
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Starbucks (NASDAQ:) should select an unbiased law firm and cast a wide net as the global coffee chain begins to assess whether it respects baristas’ right to unionize, four shareholders said in a letter on Thursday.
The shareholders, including Trillium Asset Management and New York City’s public pension funds, said they met Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan last month to discuss the review, according to the letter sent to the company on Thursday and seen by Reuters.
Labor practices at Starbucks, the world’s biggest coffee chain, have come under scrutiny from shareholders and the U.S. Congress as workers at stores nationwide have started to form unions.
The Seattle-based company pushed back its completion date for the review to the end of 2023, about three months longer than it previously said it would take.
Around 300 Starbucks cafes in the United States have unionized since late 2021. The company was union-free for decades. In addition, more than 540 complaints have been filed with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board, accusing Starbucks of illegal labor practices such as firing union supporters, spying on workers and closing stores during labor campaigns.
The company has broadly denied wrongdoing and said it offers employees competitive wages and benefits and respects their rights under federal labor law.
In their letter, the shareholders urged the company to select an assessor without a history of “union avoidance” practice, such as Littler Mendelson, the firm currently used by Starbucks for its union negotiations.
Starbucks shares were up 0.5% on Thursday.
A Starbucks spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.